Cortez Middle School students on Tuesday told school board members a new science program has helped them be more expressive and dedicated in school.
Science Night in Towaoc started two years ago as a way to engage more Native American students and parents in science learning, CMS science teacher Kate Ott told Cortez school board members at their meeting Tuesday. Students, parents and teachers meet twice a month and share a meal together as part of the events, she said.
More than 50 people showed up for the first science night two years ago, and students are enthusiastic about the program, former CMS teacher Jeff Sand said.
“It’s been really student-driven,” he said.
About a dozen seventh- and eighth-grade Ute Mountain Ute students from CMS put on a series of experiments for board members at their meeting, including showing a homemade robot they built as part of the science nights.
Ute Mountain Ute K-12 Education Director Tina King-Washington said Science Night in Towaoc gives students an opportunity to be leaders. Parents get to see their children participate in something they didn’t get a chance to do when they were in school, she said.
“It’s good to see the students blossom,” she said.
Ott, Sands and CMS science teacher Brittany Lang volunteer their time for the science nights, Ott said. They pay for half the expenses, and King-Washington covers the other half, Ott said. She asked the school board members to consider funding the science nights to make the program more sustainable.
Ott said research shows that kids learn best when they have a good relationship with their teachers and parents. Science Night in Towaoc has helped develop both of those relationships for students, she said.
The students who presented had come a long way, Ott said.
“I’m really impressed with them,” she said.
Board members also were impressed with the students’ presentation. Board President Jack Schuenemeyer encouraged the students to continue studying science. He said the students would get the opportunity to do things in the future that no one in the room could yet imagine.
“You can make the world a better place,” he told the students.
Board Vice President Eric Whyte, a Ute Mountain Ute tribal member, said he thanked the parents for supporting their students and the science nights. He said he hoped the program would lead to other similar programs involving Native American students.
“You’re setting a path for us to continue (in Towaoc),” he said.